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Police raid French HQ of Merck KGaA over thyroid drug scandal

Published on 04/10/17 at 09:30am

Police have raided the French headquarters of German drug manufacturer Merck KGaA over a scandal concerning its thyroid treatment Levothyrox, whereby more than 9,000 patients allege that the drug has caused a range of detrimental side-effects.

Merck updated the formula used in Levothyrox back in March this year at the request of French regulator ANSM, and the country was the first to market the new version of the drug. The company removed lactose from the product to improve tolerability, replacing it with citric acid and mannitol, a type of sugar alcohol. Since the new version became available, patients have reported cases of hair loss, weight gain, palpitations and hair loss as a result of taking the drug.

Levothyrox works to treat hyperthyroidism by substituting for low levels of the thyroxine hormone. Around three million people in France use the drug, and around 80% of them are female.

The investigation as carried out by police from the public regulatory agency OCLAESP on the basis of 61 legal complaints, including alleged involuntary bodily harm, misleading of customers and endangering lives. The investigation was originally launched  in September last year by a Marseille prosecutor and centred on whether or not Merck had mislead patients with the change in formula.

Merck said that the raid was “expected” and that it is “ready to help investigators with their work.”

In the meantime, limited quantities of the drug’s old formulation were made available in France following the raid. It will remain available in addition to the new version until other treatments are made available.

Matt Fellows

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